Members of Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) launched Radio Without Borders right before the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics, calling upon the Chinese government to respect free speech.
“The Chinese authorities refused to issue visas to 10 of our members, but this has not stopped us from making ourselves heard in Beijing by means of a clandestine radio broadcast using miniaturized FM transmitters and antennas.
RSF devised and carried out this protest in a spirit of resistance against state control of the media,” said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard.
The press freedom organization added, “This is the first non-state radio station to have broadcast in China since the Communist Party took power in 1949. Only international Chinese-language radio stations broadcasting on the short wave would be able to break this news and information monopoly, but they are jammed by the authorities.”
Ménard described the broadcast as a “gesture of defiance towards the Chinese authorities, who are still keeping dozens and dozens of journalists and Internet users in prison. Despite everything, there are people who are going to be able to speak out about things you don’t want the public to hear, in the very heart of Beijing. Regardless of the measures you take, you will not get rid of free speech,” he said
Ménard then urged the Chinese authorities to release prisoners of conscience and stop jamming the frequencies used by international radio stations broadcasting in Chinese. “You banned us from going to Beijing, you expelled us from China. But despite all that, we are here, making our voice heard peacefully, in a completely non-violent fashion. It is a way of saying censorship just won’t work.”
The broadcast included interviews with Chinese human rights activists who have found refuge abroad. A former journalist talked about the censorship and self-censorship imposed on her colleagues still in China. A human rights activist described the crackdown on Chinese activists in the run-up to the Olympics.
A former political prisoner described the conditions during his capture. “External pressure is essential to improve the situation of political prisoners,” Yang Jianli said.
Finally, the director of Boxun/??, a U.S.-based, Chinese-language Web site that is still blocked in China, talked about what motivates the site’s volunteer contributors inside China who, despite the risks, post reports on the social and political situation.